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Tony Blair Memoirs: Candour And Regrets … Andrew Wilkie On Iraq …

  • September 2nd, 2010
  • Posted by EUEditor

tony-blair-12-06-site1.jpgThe British Prime Minister who partnered US President George W. Bush in the 2003 push to invade Iraq says Australia at the time was an “unflinching” backer of the project.

GOING TO WAR

Tony Blair, in his book A Journey, just released (1.9.10), says he took the United Kingdom  to war in Iraq on the strength of faulty intelligence over whether the Saddam Hussein regime had weapons of mass destruction.

He could not regret the decisions taken, as world  political frameworks had changed after the “nine-eleven” attack on New York, but he’d not been prepared for the horrors the conflict had produced.

“The mistake is serious; but it is an error…”, he wrote.

He told a radio interviewer (1.9.10) he had not anticipated the reactions of Iran and the level of intervention of the international terrorist group, Al-Qaeda.

Mr Blair, who is understood to be donating royalties up to A$ 10-million to the veterans’ group, the British Legion, said he was greatly moved by the plight of the loved ones of service personnel killed:-

“I feel desperately sorry for them, sorry for the lives cut short, sorry for the families whose bereavement is made worse by the controversy over why their loved ones died …”

AUSTRALIAN ENGAGEMENT

Reviewers of the memoir have found one reference to Australia and its engagement in the Iraq War.

howard-army2.jpgThe Australian Prime Minister of the time, John Howard, had been unwavering in backing the invasion, appreciated by Blair as political courage; in his view shared with  President George W. Bush, whom he describes in the book as a man of “genuine integrity”.

GORDON BROWN

A Journey deals extensively with the strained relationship between Tony Blair and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, then successor, Gordon Brown.

He admits to having misled Brown as they sparred for leadership of the Labour Party in the mid-1990s, and had a difficult, ultimately “impossible”  relationship with him in office, which he put down to the Chancellor’s weak “emotional intelligence”.

“But he was also strong, capable and brilliant, and those were qualities for which I never lost respect”, he said.

FUTURE TROUBLE WITH IRAN

Addressing tensions now over the nuclear ambitions of Iran, the former British Prime Minister has not abandoned faith in the fall-back solution of military action.

“I am saying that I think it is wholly unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapons capability and I think we have got to be prepared to confront them, if necessary militarily”, he said.

TEN YEAR CAREER

Tony Blair gained power in 1997 after a renovation of his party, shifting it to the political centre and re-badging it as “New Labour”.

The bravura of the early years collapsed in the face of unpopularity generated by his determination to enter the Iraq war, and the revelations of empty intelligence used to justify it.

He resigned after just over a decade in office (27.6.77); the Labour Party continued in office under Brown until this year (6.5.10), when defeated at elections by a centre-right coalition of the Tory party and Liberal-Democrats.

FOOTNOTE ON THE IRAQ WAR

wilkie-press_conference_thumb.jpgAs the commencement of Australia’s war in Iraq was recalled in the Blair memoirs a leading figure in that debate, the so-called whistle-blower, Andrew Wilkie (picture), renewed his criticisms of it.

He told a radio interviewer the invasion built on claims about weapons of mass destruction was “unwarranted, illegal and fraudulent”.

Mr Wilkie, 49, was elected a fortnight ago (21.9.10) as the independent member for Denison in the Australian Parliament, and opted to back a minority Labor government – a possibility still to be determined by undecided independent members.

A former Army Lieutenant Colonel, he resigned from the intelligence service  – the Office of National Assessments – over the manipulation of false intelligence in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

He wrote an exhaustive book about it, Axis of Deceit, and three times stood for public office (twice with the Green party), before succeeding this year.

Reference

Reuters, London, “Factbox – Tony Blair’s memoirs: extracts”, 1.9.10. http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE6802MF20100901, (1.9.10).

Andrew Wilkie, Independent candidate for Denison, (home). http://www.andrewwilkie.org/content/index.php/site/welcome,(3.9.10).

Pictures

Tony Blair, PM at Brussels 2007; John Howard, militaryphotos.net; Andrew Wilkie with media pack.

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